The San Diego Chargers visit Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers this evening. The Chargers will likely be without the services of running back LaDainian Tomlinson and will rely on a mixture of running backs Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett. The Steelers run defense is ranked second in the league, allowing just 80.2 yards a game. Quarterback Philip Rivers will look to work the ball into tight end Antonio Gates underneath and receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers along the corners. They key to the Chargers on offense will be to get Sproles involved in the screen and keep the pressure off of Rivers in the pocket.
Offensively for the Steelers, they must get the ground game going against a Charger defense that can be run on to set up the play action to take their shots deep to receivers Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will also look to work the ball underneath the receiver Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller. The Steeler offensive line must keep the pressure away from Roethlisberger. The Steelers need to play ball control with no turnovers and take whatever the Chargers give them in the passing game.
On defense, the Steelers will look to mix up blitz packages and force Sproles to help in the blitz pickup where Sproles is undersized. Safety Troy Polamalu or a linebacker will likely be positioned to spy Sproles in the passing game. The Steelers will make the Chargers prove they can run against a minimal 7 man front first.
Special teams will likely play a huge part in the game and Steeler punter Mitch Berger must try to be as effective as Chargers punter Mike Scifres. Steelers kicker Jeff Reed should have the edge over Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding.
The story as with most playoff games is simply. Play good defense, control the ball by running effectively and limit turnovers. The Steelers should be able to handle all three of these important phases. The Chargers will real miss the services of Tomlinson in this one and the Steelers should dominate the stat sheet and the scoreboard in this one.
Prediction: Steelers 23 Chargers 10